What someone clueless about sports can learn from the Olympics

I know a lot about a lot of different things, but sports is one area where I’m about as knowledgeable as Donald Trump on foreign policy.

But I do recognize the importance of sports in building civic spirit, camaraderie, and strong work ethics and values in youth. And with the Olympics being the pinnacle of the world’s best athletes competing for gold, there’s surely a lot even a non-sports fan can absorb from the event.

I didn’t watch a single sports event during the Olympics, but you can bet I learned a lot.

Lesson 1: Passion trumps preparation. The Rio Olympics was criticized for a series of embarrassing blunders, from hotel rooms not operating properly in the Athletes’ Village, stray bullets flying into the equestrian venue, to most bizarrely, a pool of water inexplicably turning green (don’t worry guys, the officials said it was totally safe). But none of these mishaps were enough to discourage the legion of boisterous Brazilian fans (although there were also reports of empty seats in some competitions), who were both loathed and loved for their rambunctiousness. One reporter who had covered dozens of massive sporting events, including several Olympics, said the soccer stadium after Brazilian’s gold win was the loudest venue he’d ever been in. And the lackluster facilities certainly did not hold athletes back from competing their best and making their countries proud.

Lesson two: The Olympics is about moments. For the athletes, it’s that moment they cross the finish line, or assert their dominance over their competitor after years and years of training. For the spectators, it’s the moment their favourite athlete or team lets them down or affirms their faith was well placed. For me, the lighter moments are what stick out in my mind: despite Michael Phelps being the greatest Olympian of all time, the image of him staring at the ground like a petulant child will always make me chuckle.

Lesson three: Feminism is still needed. I’m often the first to speak out against the new wave of feminism that crusades against behaviours such as “mansplaining” (when a man inadvertently belittles a woman by offering condescending advice), because I see them as trivial excuses to antagonize men while women in other parts of the world face real oppression, such as not being able to drive or go to school. But the baffling behaviour of some sports broadcasters at the Olympics, such as referring to a three-time Olympian as merely the wife of another athlete, shows that we still have a long way to go in recognizing women’s achievements. It also makes it all the more satisfying that our Canadian women knocked the men out of the park, bringing home 16 of a total 22 medals.

Lesson four: No city is ever truly ready for the Olympics. We saw it in Sochi, Russia. Even London, England, widely considered one of the leading global cities, faced challenges with security and small crowds. Hosting the Olympics is almost always a herculean task that leaves countries mired in debt and with an excessive number of sports facilities.

Lesson five: Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t be an idiot. The Ryan Lochte story sums this up nicely. I’m running out of column space so I’ll leave it at that.

Overall, the Rio Olympics has had its fair share of warranted criticism heaped upon it for the various logistical issues, but considering Brazil is currently in the midst of a deep recession and a corruption scandal where it’s president could be impeached, I think they did a pretty good job.

Congratulations to Brazil as well as to all the Canadian Olympians who realized their dreams and made our country proud.


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